Podcast: Summer 2019 and the Death of Genre

This year’s song of the summer is undeniable, but what does it tell us about the future of music? Evan Sawdey of PopMatters joins Kiel Hauck to break down the success of “Old Town Road”, the rise of Billie Eilish, and the odd absence of some of pop music’s biggest stars on the charts this summer. They also discuss Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, break down their “deserted island discographies,” and share their most anticipated albums set to release in the back half of 2019. Listen in!

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What was your song of the summer? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: Taylor Swift – Lover

Photo by Valheria Rocha

What I appreciate the most about Taylor Swift is the “re-watch value” of her music. Every new single is almost guaranteed to annoy me on first listen (“ME!”), but in the context of the album itself, become something great. Lover, the seventh album from Swift, is no exception. There is so much to unpack throughout the 18 tracks that one listen can’t possibly be enough to take it all in. What stands out the most about Lover is that it lives and dies by making the listener feel jubilant until the very end.

You can buy or stream Lover on Apple Music.

Lover seemingly picks up where 2014’s 1989 left off—sizzling synth, lyrics dripping in romance, and a bright feeling leveled throughout each song. There isn’t much of a hint of Reputation’s aggressiveness to be found on the surface, save for the opening track (“I Forgot That You Existed”). Looking deeper into the songs though, there is a refinement to her writing that takes shape from Reputation. Lover is, for perhaps the first time, a true mix of all of Swift’s past releases. The poppy synth blends with deep R&B beats, while Swift’s classic twang peeks through her vocals from time to time. Occasionally, songs like “Lover”, which relies on piano and guitar, crank up the nostalgia of her storied career.

Impressive in its own right is Swift’s use of minimalism in her music. She allows the quiet to be an instrument itself behind her smooth vocals (“Cornelia Street”) along with haunted, hushed instrumentation. At other times, a very simple wall of melody lays the bed as a surface for her vocals to jump on (“The Archer”). Meanwhile, “Cruel Summer”, a layered pop jam that chronicles the hesitancy to be vulnerable in a relationship, bounces on its own as a hit single waiting to happen.

Intentional or not, discovering songs that feel like follow ups to stories / songs from past albums is an unexpected joy. The hypnotically cheerful “Paper Rings” follows a simple dance melody and bouncing bass that sounds like a sister song to Red’s “Stay Stay Stay”, a song steeped in cheesy romance so strong it forces a smile. Lead single “ME!” (Featuring the masterful Brendon Urie) is already noted for its marching band-inspired beats and cheer section, reminiscent of the self-empowering “Shake It Off”.

If there is a theme to Lover, it’s one of hope. The album tells many stories, each looking forward to a happy future. “Cruel Summer” hints at the blossoming love between two people (“I scream, ‘For whatever it’s worth / I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’ / He looks up, grinning like a devil”).

“Miss American & The Heartbreak Prince” is the one track that sounds like a downer, but there are specks of light coming through until the end. The song feels in equal parts a story about young romance (“They whisper in the hallway, ‘she’s a bad bad girl’) and a commentary on politics (“American stories burning before me / I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?”). Even here, peppy shouts of “Go! Fight! Win!” punch through the fog of moody synth.

Lover is not a perfect album. It’s hard not to continuously roll your eyes during “London Boy”, and at 18 songs, the album feels just a few tracks too long. Ironically, you could make a pretty aggressive drinking game with the staggering amount of references to alcohol and being drunk that crop up in almost every song. Lover is almost magical in the warmth its synth pop presents. However, songs like “Soon You’ll Get Better”, featuring the Dixie Chicks, an acoustic ballad interwoven with banjo and violin, make it hard not to miss Swift’s past, even if her future is brighter than ever.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and literally just spilled an ENTIRE cup of water across the ENTIRE kitchen floor in an attempt to keep the cat from doing just that. Please send him towels.

Podcast: Diving into Taylor Swift’s New Track “Me”

There is new music from Taylor Swift and it is in the form of a song called “Me”. Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz dive in to unpack the new single and talk about the career trajectories of Swift and Brendon Urie, along with Swift’s many random ties to the scene. They also break down the gorgeous music video for the track and speculate wildly on what Swift’s upcoming album might bring. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your expectations for Taylor Swift’s new album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

5 Things Taylor Swift’s Clock Could Be Counting Down to

Taylor Swift is going to announce something this coming Friday, April 26. We know this because her website recently began counting down to that date and her social media channels are teasing what that date might bring. The problem is, it’s all so ambiguous, there’s really no consensus on what it all means or what will actually happen.

In the spirit of conjecture, we’ve compiled our five best guesses as to what will happen on Friday. Some of them are silly, some are not. Will any of them be correct? I guess we’ll find out on Friday.

1. Taylor Releases a New Line of Sunglasses for Chickens

This is one of the silly ones. Or is it? Just this weekend, her social media accounts shared an image of various chicken artwork, all of which include pictures of chickens in sunglasses with the caption 4.26.

So if you want to get super literal about things, it’s kind of obvious what the countdown is leading us toward. And it kinda makes sense, right? I mean, chickens are out in the sun a lot and would probably welcome a little protection from the rays. Except they don’t have ears, so that makes it kind of hard. Okay, maybe this isn’t it.

2. Taylor Ends Her Running Feud with Katy Perry

Wait, is this feud still a thing? Honestly, I’m not going to look it up to find out, but a common conversation around this mysterious countdown is that it’s a hard pivot from the dark vibes that led up to Taylor’s last album, Reputation. The colors are bright and things seem pretty chill. So maybe it’s all good now. But that would be a weird thing to announce on a Friday. So that’s probably not it. But let’s hope the hatchet gets buried anyway.

3. Taylor Launches Her Own Streaming Service

With six full-length albums under her belt and multiple music videos and live tour recordings, Taylor has built quite the multimedia collection. With so many streaming services popping up, why not follow suit and launch her own service? This time, her music is pulled from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other services for good – and for the low price of $4.26 per month, you can gain access to every Taylor song and video your heart desires.

But that’s kinda what Tidal is for Jay-Z these days and I honestly can’t remember the last time someone told me they used Tidal, so this is probably a bad idea and not it.

4. Taylor Announces Her Retirement

For someone still under the age of 30, Taylor Swift has had a pretty unbelievable career. She’s won almost every award you can win for making music, has toured the world multiple times over, and is generally regarded as one of the most successful pop artists of her generation. What’s left to prove?

Except that’s not really how being an artist works – you don’t really just quit creating. And plus, that would be a huge bummer, cuz I would love to keep listening to new music created by Taylor Swift, so that’s probably not what this is, but it leads us to our most likely outcome.

5. Taylor Shares a New Single and Gives a Release Date for Her New Album

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. I highly doubt we’re getting a full new album on Friday, because that’s generally not how these things work, but I feel fairly confident that there will be new music and it will probably be in the form of one song.

We’ll also probably get a late summer release date for her new album, which will be fun to look forward to. Also, we’ll get to hear whatever this next stage of artistic evolution sounds like, which I’m pretty interested to find out. So let’s just go with that. Hooray for new music from Taylor Swift (hopefully)!

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2019

One of my favorite late-night weekend activities is pouring myself (another) drink and going down memory lane on YouTube, watching some of my favorite music videos. It’s probably no surprise that it’s around this time every year that I decide to compile a list of music videos turning 10 years old – it’s bitter cold outside and it’s all too easy to curl up under a blanket on the couch and play them endlessly.

Interestingly enough, 2009 was filled with music videos from artists that were coming into their own: Taylor Swift, Drake, Lady Gaga and more. Their videos also seemed to speak to something deeper within the artists themselves. Let’s kick back and drift back in time to enjoy some of the best videos that 2009 had to offer.

Taylor Swift – “You Belong with Me”

While the public at large often associates Taylor Swift’s crossover smash “You Belong with Me” with Kanye West’s acceptance speech interruption at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the video itself gives us an early glimpse of Swift’s duality. Playing both the protagonist and antagonist – nerdy bookworm and preppy cheerleader – the video’s narrative bends in the direction of her innocent side. It’s fascinating that after a decade-long evolution, Swift’s current work finds her exploring the other end of the spectrum.

Boys Like Girls – “Love Drunk”

As an unabashed fan of Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut album, I was a little more than excited for their follow up in 2009. Love Drunk took all of the saccharine melody from the band’s debut and infused it pulsing beats to form a blend of emo power pop. The video for the album’s first single finds the band performing at an arcade as a bunch of guys awkwardly attempt to win the affections of a young lady. I guess the moral of the story is…that band dudes always get the girl? Or something?

Paramore – “Brick by Boring Brick”

As brand new eyes turns 10 years old, I felt it my obligation to give time of day to the album’s most overlooked single. Perhaps the most divisive track on the album, the video for “Brick by Boring Brick” captures the fairy tale juxtaposition of the song perfectly. Near the end of the video, a glowing Hayley Williams watches Josh Farro dig what can only be understood as the grave for the pre-2010’s era of Paramore. Kinda sad, right?

Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem – “Forever”

While 2009 was a bit of an odd year for hip hop, it’s remembered best for the arrival of Drake. Here he amazingly shares the stage with three hip hop heavyweights in a video that follows the rise of LeBron James from young basketball prodigy to NBA superstar. Has anyone ever called their shot better? Ten years later, Drake is still one of the most powerful forces in music.

Ke$ha – “Tik Tok”

Speaking of introductions, Kesha’s “Tik Tok” was the perfect primer for one of 2009’s polarizing new pop figures and is still just as much fun as it was 10 years ago. After waking up in the bathtub of a vanilla suburban family, Kesha treks out the door to hop on a golden bike, complimented by an American flag. By the end of the video, there’s glitter everywhere. At some point, you have to throw caution to the wind and enjoy the ride.

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”

Lady Gaga’s music video for “Bad Romance” is still perfectly weird, featuring wacky costumes, awkward dance moves, people crawling out of futuristic pods and a group of supermodels trying to sell her to the Russian mafia. As wonderful as “A Star is Born”-era Gaga has been to witness, it’s hard not to long for those early days when literally everything she touched was off-the-wall bananas.

Taking Back Sunday – “Sink Into Me”

The dirty little secret about Taking Back Sunday’s most divisive album is that it’s actually pretty good and holds up well 10 years later. The lead single from 2009’s New Again was “Sink Into Me”, which featured a music video of Adam Lazzara and the boys sinking into…a tar pit? It’s messy, but it sure looks like they’re having a good time.

The Devil Wears Prada – “Danger: Wildman”

“I know a ghost!” That opening cry from The Devil Wears Prada frontman Mike Hranica on “Danger: Wildman” has become a late aughts metalcore highlight, as has his missing-tooth appearance in this dark video filled with skeletons and a mysterious bearded man. This track still goes hard and it’s delightful to think about how far this band had come by their big moment in the spotlight in 2009.

Owl City – “Fireflies”

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Adam Young, better known as Owl City, pressed a button on his keyboard marked “Magic” and brought the toys and objects in his bedroom alive? Me neither. It’s still amazing to think about what a phenomenon this song became, and I can’t help but smile when watching the video now. I’m especially fond of the monkey playing the cymbals and the tiny seal on the turntable.

Mayday Parade – “The Silence”

Here’s a bit of trivia you maybe didn’t know: “The Silence” was originally written to be included on the “New Moon” soundtrack. While the song failed to go down in Twilight lore, it’s still works as a pretty great inclusion on Mayday Parade’s sophomore effort (and major label debut) Anywhere But Here. The video is full of color and slo-mo shots of hot air balloons. Neat, huh?

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2018

Even with the days of MTV music video rotation squarely in the rearview mirror, the impact of the music video can still be felt. In 2008, YouTube had become the new gathering place for music fans to experience their favorite bands and artists in a visual way, with music videos garnering tens of millions of views in the blink of an eye.

Taking a look back at some of the videos turning 10 this year, it’s easy to remember a time when we were willing to wait out the annoying buffering to get a glimpse of our favorite bands doing their thing on screen. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2008 and be sure to share some of your favorite music videos from 2008 in the replies!

Panic at the Disco – “Nine in the Afternoon”

Remember how weird it was to hear Pretty. Odd. for the first time? Lead single “Nine in the Afternoon” captured all of that stark strangeness from every angle. Clearly stylized after Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Nine in the Afternoon” combines vivid colors, marching bands, archery, and odd uses of vacuum cleaners to create a surreal experience.

Fall Out Boy – “I Don’t Care”

Before the “hiatus,” Fall Out Boy gifted the world with Folie à Deux, an album unappreciated in its time. In the video for “I Don’t Care”, the band’s members embrace their inner bad boy, only to be later revealed as various celebrities and other musicians. In typical Fall Out Boy fashion, there’s more than meets the eye – it’s a satirical look at the caricature of celebrity – and it’s fun as hell.

Kanye West – “Welcome to Heartbreak”

Long before Kanye stole the mic from Taylor Swift or donned a MAGA hat on Twitter, he made a sad album of sad songs called 808s & Heartbreak. One of those songs introduced us to Kid Cudi, whose chorus on “Welcome to Heartbreak” is still just as stellar as it was 10 years ago. The dark, dingy music video matches the vibe and showcases a softer side of a complicated artist.

Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”

It’s still hard to believe that track 8 from Anberlin’s sophomore album would go on to be the smash single from their fourth album, New Surrender. The year’s biggest rock song is displayed on video in deep sepia tones and captures the sin buried within the song. It’s the perfect video for a breakout from a band that had long ago earned its time in the spotlight.

Hey Monday – “Homecoming”

Long before Cassadee Pope was winner of The Voice and a star country singer, she fronted the pop punk band Hey Monday. The band’s lead single “Homecoming” is captured here in a bowling alley where Pope’s jerk ex-boyfriend is pulling the same tricks with a new girl. Fortunately for her, the band’s power chords save her from heart break. Or something?

Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

In 2008, Taylor Swift was coming into her own and blossoming into aa full-blown star. The video for “Love Story” finds her traveling back in time, petting a horse, and running through a field. Wait a minute, is this video actually good? No, but it’s definitely a time capsule of what 2008 sounded like.

Beyoncé – “Single Ladies”

“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Need we say more?

Anthony Green – “Dear Child (I’ve Been Trying to Reach You)”

This is such a weird little video, but it fit the quirkiness of Anthony Green, who in 2008 was blossoming into aa full-blown rock star. With Saosin and Circa Survive success under his belt, Green led his solo debut Avalon with this video featuring a variety of animated creatures, along with a scorned ex with…octopus arms? Eh, whatever. It works.

Lil Wayne – “Got Money”

Was there anything more thrilling in 2008 than Lil Wayne and T-Pain robbing a bank in a music video? The answer is no, there was not. Still one of the best autotune pop rap songs of its time, “Got Money” is just about as fun as music videos get, especially Wayne and T-Pain’s adorable shirts displaying “He Sings”, “He Raps”.

Metro Station – “Shake It”

This song is kinda gross and the video is mostly boring. But can you honestly think of 2008 without remembering this track playing in the background of every memory? Damn you, Trace Cyrus and Mason Musso with your whisper verses and over-the-top hooks!

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Taylor Swift – Reputation

Just over three years have passed since Taylor Swift won me over, and just two years have gone by since I made that information public. At the time, I admonished myself for the lack of empathy I exhibited toward Swift as she reckoned with fame in the midst of her youth. Her latest album, Reputation, dives headlong into that very conversation from every angle imaginable.

During the album’s rollout, as narratives flew wildly, it was easy to forget that the past three years of Swift’s life consisted of more than just petty feuds with Kanye West and Katy Perry. As stories of sexual misconduct in entertainment continue to crash ashore, remember that Swift handled herself with strength and grace this summer while winning a lawsuit against an ex-radio DJ who groped her.

You can buy Reputation on iTunes.

Even one of the most powerful cultural forces in recent memory is not immune to abuses of power and had to fight for the public perception of her own character. With that in mind, Reputation takes on a significantly more meaningful role than you might think on the surface.

That’s not to say that Reputation is a great album. It’s flawed, certainly, but its significance remains.

If you’re like any of the other 700,000 people that purchased Reputation last Friday, you’re aware that several of the album’s 15 tracks are much better than the singles we were given. In this case, the missing pieces fill in the gaps quite well, making the purpose of Reputation clear. Taylor Swift isn’t embracing her dark side – she’s resolutely stating the control she has over her own relationships, her own persona, her own destiny. It’s kind of powerful in that way.

And oh, by the way, the majority of the album pulses shamelessly with buzzing synthesizers and rattling bass lines, as if to emphasize her point. When it works, as it does on the delightfully trappy “I Did Something Bad”, it elevates Swift to another level of pop excellence. When it doesn’t, we get handed hollow wannabe bangers like lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” or the impossibly clumsy “End Game” with Ed Sheeran and Future.

The aforementioned “I Did Something Bad” works so well because Swift conveys her message with such flare and clarity. During the track’s bridge, she alludes to a dying culture of victim-shaming and misplaced anger, singing, “They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one / They got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons”. That self-awareness and snark makes her chorus of, “They say I did something bad / Then why’s it feel so good?” all the more bold and empowered.

It’s a strategy that plays well on other tracks like “Dress” and “Don’t Blame Me”, where Swift defiantly embraces her sexuality and control of her own love life. On “Call it What You Want”, when she sings, “I want to wear his initial on a chain round my neck / Not because he owns me / But ‘cause he really knows me”, it’s not a reinvention – it’s a reclaiming of her own story.

These moments make Reputation worth its while, even when things become uninspired (“Delicate”, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”). Such has been the case with nearly every album of Swift’s career, so offering another cry for her to trim the fat merely seems like wasted breath at this point. Besides, this is what Spotify’s queue feature was made for.

If you’re still in need of finding a storyline in which Swift stands not in the best light, opportunities are available. For instance, take her firm apolitical stance at a time when her voice would be welcome – a stance so steadfast that she is willing to sue a blogger for even questioning her silence against dangerous alt-right groups that seem to support her.

As it turns out, Taylor Swift is complicated, just like the rest of us. Reputation, on the other hand, is not. With her sixth full length album, Swift has boldly declared her own narrative, others be damned. Whether you choose to scoff or turn up the beat and dance is up to you.

3.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Taylor Swift Drops New Song “Look What You Made Me Do”

It’s here! Last night, Taylor Swift dropped the first single from her new album, Reputation. The new song, titled “Look What You Made Me Do”, is a dark dance-pop track that takes aim at her enemies, in particular, Kanye West and Katy Perry. Co-written with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, “Look What You Made Me Do” gives us a glimpse into what could be a much darker affair when her album drops on November 10. Take a listen to the new song below:

You can preorder Reputation through a variety of outlets.

What do you think of the new song? Are you hoping for more of the same on Reputation? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Taylor Swift to Release “Reputation” on November 10

It’s finally happening. Taylor Swift will release her sixth full-length album titled Reputation on November 10, just over three years after dropping 1989. Swift made the announcement via Instagram this morning, ending speculation after her social media accounts went blank late last week. Swift also announced that a new single with drop tomorrow.

Take a look at the artwork for Reputation below:

What do you expect from Taylor Swift’s new album? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck